My son just learned the word “No” and it’s been in frequent use. Yesterday I asked him to come inside, eat his food, take off his jacket, give back my phone, take a bath, stop drawing on the wall and stop throwing his sippy cup. All of which were answered with his latest knowledge of the lexicon.
The conversations went something like this…
This went on for as long as I was willing and usually ended with a back-arching, arm-flailing fit. We had at least a dozen of those conversations and at one point I had a sobering revelation. Why am I arguing with a toddler?
I’m the Daddy. I decide when its time to go inside. I decide when it’s time to eat. And I decide when its time to stop hitting my laptop with a Wiffle Ball bat. This is not a negotiation. He’s 2. I’m 38.
So for our 13th such conversation I adopted a revolutionary new strategy. I stole his word. No. We got to the fit a lot sooner but when he realized we weren’t bargaining anymore he gave up on that too.
Now I’m no parenting expert by any stretch of the imagination but I think I stumbled upon some good parenting advice. It’s OK to say “No” to your kids. It may even be good for them. Sure, they’ll shed few tears and pout over hurt feelings but disappointment can be a good thing. It’s a learning experience.
Life doesn’t always go our way. We don’t always get what we want. The sooner we learn that the better. Unfortunately, modern parenting styles have adopted the opposite strategy. We work hard to make sure our kids don’t experience any form of disappointment. So we coddle, acquiesce and stop keeping score in little league.
In the process, our kids grow up in a world that always says “Yes” to them. A world in which they always win and always hear how awesome and gifted they are. That is until they go off to work or college and discover that not everyone thinks as highly of them as their parents.
Our kids need to learn how to deal with “No.” Regardless of whether they’re 2, 10 or 13 (the current ages of my kids). They need to experience disappointment and learn how to work through it. They need to know how to deal with not always getting their way.
In short, they need to grow up. And it’s our job to help them do it. Would someone please remind me of that the next time I’m arguing with my toddler?